Albacore

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Albacore caught between Ventura and Anacapa Island. Albacore used to be plentiful in the channel. A diary kept by one Venturan tells of rowing a skiff out from the Ventura Pier to catch them.

Albacore (Thunnus germo) [Pacific albacore], a cousin to the tuna, range along the Pacific Coast from Alaska south to Mexico, feeding on other fishes, squid, shrimp and crustacea. They are both pelagic and migratory, and fed on or near the water's surface. In a month they commonly swim over 500 miles, regularly traversing the Pacific during their far-ranging, relentless migrations. Their appearance is more common in warmer months. Sport fishing for albacore is centered from the California Channel Islands south to Ensenada. Albacore are most commonly caught with live bait, and is arguably Southern California’s most sought-after gamefish. Although they can grow to 100 pounds, most are between ten and forty pounds. They are the only tuna allowed to be labeled as ‘white meat.’ In 1915, the California state legislature initiated the “pink ticket” system of tracking tuna catches. The statistics provided the basis for assessing the status of the fishery stocks. In 1916 almost 400 vessels were employed in the southern California tuna fishery. The albacore fishery collapsed in the 1930s, after warmer ocean waters occurred off southern California from 1926 to 1941.

"A Morning's Catch of Albacore by Edward Keller,
Santa Catalina Island, Ca.


Holder, Charles Frederick, The Yellow-fin Albacore of in California in Popular Science Monthly, 1906 (p. 376-834)


» Dunn, J. Richard William Francis Thompson (1888-1965) and the Dawn of Marine Fisheries Research in California Marine Fisheries Review 63(2): 15-24.



In the News~

August 26, 1894 [SBMP]: “Fishermen report a large run of albacore in the channel.”


August 10, 1897 [SCF]: “… the party took 200 pounds of albacore while on a pleasure trip to San Clemente Island on board the yacht San Diego.”


July 19, 1900 [SBMP]: “The Ariel arrived last evening from Friar Harbor, Santa Cruz Island, with good reports from the Whitney camp. Several fine albacore were caught by the Ariel in crossing the channel.”


August 5, 1903 [SBMP]: “The Ariel, Captain Short, brought in the finest catch yet recorded yesterday, consisting mostly of albacore...”


June 27, 1904 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. A. W. Barrett had the greatest sport of the season crowded into two hours this forenoon. With the Nestella he was cruising about the ocean some eight or ten miles out, looking for tuna when they neared a big bunch of floating kelp, underneath which was a school of yellowtail and albacore…”


July 17, 1904 [SBMP]: “Fishing from boats near the kelp line is reported extra good just now. Some large catches are being made. Albacore and Spanish mackerel are running.”


August 6, 1904 [SBMP]: “Captain Ulpiano Larco has a party out in the Paloma yesterday. A big catch of different kinds was made, including ten fine large albacore.”


August 30, 1904 [SBMP]: “Messrs. Adolph Roos and King of San Francisco went out yesterday in one of Captain Gourley's boats for another trial for the fish that are attracting so much attention in this city at the present time. They captured one small tuna and also four very large albacore.”


September 6, 1904 [SBMP]: “Henry Short was out with a party of fourteen people yesterday and reported a large catch including seven tuna and many bonita and albacore.”


July 4, 1905 [SBMP]: “Captain Merry took a part of 12 men to Santa Cruz Island early Sunday morning for a day’s fishing in the channel and an outing on the island... The first albacore of the season was hooked near the center of the channel, but after a hard fight with the boatman, it succeeded in escaping before it was gaffed. The men reported having had a very enjoyable trip.”


August 13, 1905 [SBMP]: “Judge Aiken and Mr. Grant were out yesterday afternoon in Belvedere. They sailed ten miles out into the channel and brought in a large catch of albacore.”


September 2, 1909 [SBI]: “A party of fishermen from the Potter Hotel caught seven large albacore this morning while fishing in the channel in Captain Gourley’s launch. Albacore are considered the most desirable catch with the exception of tuna. Just now they seem plentiful in Santa Barbara waters.”


July 24, 1910 [SBMP]: “Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. yesterday opened the rod and reel fishing season in the Santa by capturing the first albacore. It was a good-sized fish, weighing probably fifteen or twenty pounds, and giving amateur fishermen a half hour’s very strenuous work with the 12 ounce tackle. Yet he was very greatly ‘dee-lighted.’ Mr. Roosevelt was accompanied by his bride and by Mr. and Mrs. Stewart Edward White, who have been their companions on a number of pleasant outing trips since their coming to Santa Barbara a month ago. The trip was made in the power yacht Charm, Captain H. S. Short, and the boat went twenty miles into the channel, nearly to Anacapa Island before the schools of albacore were found. And then such numbers of them! It seems that the channel fish have been waiting for Teddy, Jr. to coax them from their hiding places in the deep, for the fishing until yesterday has been notoriously poor this summer. The Roosevelt-White party brought in several albacore. The Charm left its distinguished passengers at Stearn’s Wharf late in the afternoon, all of them expressing pleasure with the cruise, and none of them having been the least bit seasick.”


August 8, 1910 [SBI]: “A small but very successful fishing party spent yesterday along the coast in Captain Vasquez’ boat, the Gussie M. They left here at 6 A.M. and did not return till about 11 at night. Among their catch were 18 albacore, which weighed altogether about 400 pounds. The party consisted of R. J. Travers, P. T. Cland and son, O. S. Peffley, M. C. Setzelman and L. E. Hales. The largest fish caught weighed 25 pounds.”


September 1, 1910 [SBMP]: “The San Pedro fishermen are again invading the Santa , and before many days the entire fleet of 20 or 30 boats may be expected here. Captain Short of the Charm and other channel mariners report that the fishing around the islands is improving rapidly, there being large schools of sardines, bonita and albacore.”


September 8, 1910 [SBMP]: “There is a marked improvement in the fishing in the channel. The Vamoose, out recently with a party of railroad men, returned with about 150 pounds of albacore and bonita, and reported the waters off Goleta swarming with sardines. There are now about 15 of the San Pedro fishing launches making their headquarters here. Their favorite fishing grounds are off Carpinteria and Rincon. They leave their anchorage here about sundown and return in the early morning with their catch.”


September 14, 1910 [SBI]: “Albacore are declared to be running well in the channel just now, and yellowtail and barracuda are augmenting the sport with their great schools…”


August 21, 1913 [SBDN]: “Heavy catches of fish are being brought in from the channel these days. Yesterday, fishermen caught and brought here over three tons of halibut, which is one of the largest catches this season. Besides the halibut, quantities of albacore and barracuda are in the channel. The barracuda may be caught but a short distance from the shore, while the albacore run about the middle of the channel.”


August 1, 1914 [SBMP]: “Reports from the island bring news of excellent sport with the trolling lines. Yellowtail, cabrilla, bonita and albacore are running in great schools and the fishermen are having revel in the way of hauling finny beauties.”


August 6, 1914 [LAT]: “The largest school of albacore reported in recent years is being decimated by cannery fishermen off Santa Barbara Island, according to reports brought in by fishermen today. Today nearly 400 tons of the tuna came to the canneries of San Pedro and Long Beach.”


August 19, 1914 [SBDNI]: “... Fishermen are now busy catching albacore south of Anacapa Island. The fish are traveling north and the boats may be landing at Santa Barbara in a week or two. They are now landing at San Pedro.”


September 8, 1914 [SBMP]: “Judge J. G. Shoup, B. F. Ruiz, Captain Frank Nidever and Captain George Nidever returned last night from a ten days camping trip at Willow Harbor, on the south shore of Santa Cruz Island. They had expected to do a good deal of running about between the different harbors, but the water was so rough on that side of the island that the sailing was not comfortable, so the party spent all its time at the harbor named. The campers had a fine time, none the less, and caught all the fish they could use and brought home a large number of albacore.”


June 1, 1915 [SBDNI]: “Albacore, the fishes sold as tuna, are beginning their annual run up the coast from warmer waters according to local fishermen, who are overhauling their boats and net in preparation for a grand rush within the next few weeks. At San Pedro and Long Beach a dozen albacore canneries are getting ready for the season. The best fishing ground for the fish near Santa Barbara is reported to be on the south side of Santa Cruz Island.”


August 23, 1915 [SBDNI]: “Thirty tons of albacore are each day leaving Santa for the Van Camp Canning factory at San Pedro, according to J. S. Reynolds, who has just returned from Santa Cruz Island where he has been interestingly watching the big fishing fleet there for two weeks. From 200 to 300 power fishing boats are plying the channel waters for albacore. The canning company has towed up and anchored near Smugglers Cove a floating wharf where the fishing boats deposit their fish and receive their receipts and where the big fish barge, which visits the cove daily, takes aboard its 20 to 30 tons of fish for the cannery. On the floating dock there is also a grocery store for the fishermen and a supply station for gas, oil and distillate. The fishermen work on the share pan and the best boat last year is reported to have cleared $8000 for a season of three months. This year the boats, which have already been in the channel for two weeks, expect to stay for two months longer if the albacore continue to run for the usual length of time. The fishing fleet came up to establish headquarters at Pelican Bay, but finding no sardines and anchovies there to use for bait they moved down to Smugglers Cove, where bait was plentiful. Mr. Reynolds, who returned yesterday from two weeks camping with Captain Eaton at his summer resort at Pelican Bay, said this morning that albacore was not the only fish extremely plentiful at the islands just now. He in company with a few others from the camp caught 200 pounds of rock cod in a little over an hour one day and 300 pounds in about the same time another day.”


September 5, 1915 [SBMP]: “The island excursion season ends today for the Sea Wolf, and tomorrow Captain Eaton will join the large albacore fleet operating in the waters around the islands.”


September 5, 1915 [SBMP]: “Last night the Sea Wolf took out a fishing party composed of ten railroad men who were after gamey albacore. Captain Eaton will take the anglers to a point about midway between Santa Cruz and San Nicolas islands, in which region about 300 San Pedro boats are regularly congregated in the hunt for albacore for the canneries at the southern city named. This party will return tonight.”


September 10, 1915 [OC]: “Captain Eaton’s launch Sea Wolf will join the fleet of albacore fishing boats in the island waters. The island excursion season has closed. Many Oxnard people have made the trip to Santa Cruz aboard the Sea Wolf.”


April 16, 1916 [SBMP]: “Few know that the once-despised albacore, now packed by the carload as tuna fish, has already gone far ahead of the much-advertised salmon in its value to the state, great as that has been...”


August 9, 1916 [SBDN]: “Uncle Sam has ordered his sleuths of the sea to solve the baffling mystery shrouding the disappearnce of Mr. Tuna Albacore. On the success of their quest for him hangs the fate of an industry valued at millions…”


August 26, 1916 [SBMP]: “It is reported that the San Pedro fleet of albacore power launches plying their trade at the Channel Islands, has for some time past bought most of its supplies, especially gasoline and distillate, at the Santa Barbara dealers. This fact may, in some degree at least, figure as a compensation for the many boatloads of fish that the so-called ‘San Pedro pirates’ take from these waters to the big canneries located at the lower port named.”


November 28, 1916 [TI/Avalon]: “The U. S. Fisheries steamer Albatross, which has been on a cruise for the past nine months studying the habits of the albacore, sailed for San Francisco Friday… For almost six months the Albatross has remained in the waters between San Diego and Point Conception… It is said that no albacore were found south of Cedros Island or north of Point Conception…”


August 21, 1917 [SBDN]: “The Seafarer, cannery tender of the large tuna canneries of San Pedro, came in this morning for supplies. The Seafarer is one of the tenders of the fleet of 80 fishing boats now off the east end of Santa Cruz Island. The fleet is following the great schools of albacore north along the coast.”


August 23, 1917 [SBDN]: “The albacore season is on, and the big fish are now swarming in the channel off the islands. A big albacore fleet from San Pedro has arrived on the scene, and the fish are being caught at the rate of one hundred tons a day. There are between 30 and 40 boats in the fleet, the mother boat being the Seafarer, which puts into Santa Barbara daily for provisions, gasoline and other supplies…”


August 24, 1917 [SBDN]: “The supply ship of the great albacore fleet, now off Santa Cruz Island, came in today for a supply of gasoline for the fleet. The ship carries over 3000 gallons of gasoline each trip. About 4000 gallons are used by the fleet a day.”


August 30, 1917 [SBDN]: “The biggest run of albacore in the history of channel fishing is now on off Santa Cruz Island. The Cannery Clearing House of San Pedro has 1100 fishers at work. Last night 145 tons of albacore were caught. The record catch was by five Japanese, who in five hours hauled up 15 tons of fish, and recovered a check for $1200 from the Cannery Clearing House for their catch. This morning, Captain Fink of the Seafarer, who keeps the biggest fleet supplied with provisions from Santa Barbara, put in here for supplies, and brings news of the big run. There are now 225 fishing boats engaged, fishing night and day, for the fishers have to take advantage of the run while it is on. There are three immense fish barges employed, constantly making trips from the fishing banks to San Pedro with the daily catch, which has averaged between 50 and 70 tons a day. The run last night was so immense that the fishers took no time to bait their hooks, but threw in, and hauling up rapidly, cleared their hooks with gaffs. The fish weigh from 20 to 25 pounds each. So far, only one albacore with a government silver tag has been caught. Until two years ago the albacore was regarded as worthless, and was thrown aside. Experts of the fisheries department of the government started a campaign of education, and now the albacore is esteemed, the entire country demanding the canned fish, and 35 canneries have sprung up at San Pedro. In the study of albacore the fish experts of the government caught several hundred over a year ago and turned them loose. Each fish is tagged with a silver plate, each plate being numbered. Canneries are directed to report the finding of these numbers, and just one has so been caught off Santa Cruz Island. By the tag system the government will discover how far the fish run, and their spawning beds are also to be located by this means, it is expected. The fishing fleet in the channel is drawing heavily on Santa Barbara for supplies. Over 200 loaves of bread were sent by the Hunt Mercantile Company to the fleet today, besides a large consignment of provisions. Tuesday the bread buying for the fleet caused a near famine in bread here. Every bakery and store contributed to fill the bread order.”


August 31, 1917 [SBDN]: “The yacht Rheingold, in the charter of the United States Fisheries Commission, returned to the San Pedro yesterday from a trip of more than four hundred miles off shore, going to the southwest of San Nicolas Island in search of albacore. The most remarkable thing discovered by the investigation as that when they passed beyond the Japanese current and into the cold waters of the Pacific, they found no trace of schools of the fish and the individuals which they were able to catch were empty as to stomach, showing that there were no feeding places off shore. This will be generalized and will prove of great advantage in tracing the albacore to its breeding places.”


September 2, 1917 [SBMP]: “Fishermen engaged in the island waters are experiencing very lively times at present, owing to great runs of albacore, which are taken to the canneries at San Pedro, where they are now bringing $80 a ton for the whole fish. Larco and Company’s three boats, the Eagle, Seal and Santa Ana, were yesterday chartered to a San Pedro cannery to carry fuel oil to supply this company's boats engaged in hauling the fish to the cannery during this run of albacore, the continuance of which is entirely uncertain. It might last for several weeks yet, and it might end within a few days.”


October 22, 1918 [SBMP]: “Fishing in the channel during the past few months has exceeded all expectations… Albacore have been running lively and the hauls landed have netted exceptional cash returns at the San Pedro canneries.”